Monday, September 29, 2014

Hard

My hospice patient died this weekend.  And I can only say that I am relieved, for her and for me.  I saw her on Friday and she was struggling, both physically and mentally, from both the disease and from regrets I had learned she had.  I won't go into the details, if only to give her some dignity after the fact, but it was hard to be with her.  Her body was clearly readying for death, but she was scared and not ready to leave.  "Please help me," she would beg, not wanting to be alone.  I checked with nurses and our main hospice team about her medication, but she was apparently getting what she needed and could tolerate.  Still, without a family to advocate for her (there were difficulties and she was mainly alone), I felt I had to try to help; this wasn't the kind of death that hospice aims for or that we would envision for our loved ones.  Still, I kept trying, even as I realized she had burned out so many previous professional caregivers at the facility.  I held her hands, read poetry and prayers, sung lots of songs, rubbed her with lotion, smoothed her hair.  When she talked of an appointment to which she needed to hurry, I told her to go, that she was ready, that she wasn't late, that we knew she had to go, that we were ready, and that we wished her a good journey.  I said goodbye when I left, not knowing it would be the last time.  I'm glad it was.  May she rest in peace, free from all of her suffering.  I learned from her, even though the lessons about loss and death, dignity and dying, fear and forgiveness, pain and peace, the limitations of hospice, the importance of loved ones, maintaining boundaries while keeping compassion, were harder than I expected.

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